I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Sunday, August 29, 2010

The Star-Ledger's getting a little better...

... on this whole "education reporting" thing - but they've still got a way to go.

Today's recap on the week's Race To The Top disaster has some good points, not the least of which was their interview with Bruce Baker:
Some officials and experts who did not necessarily agree with the Race to the Top proposals see a silver lining in an otherwise cloudy week.
"They weren’t necessarily thoughtful reforms to begin with and there was little buy-in," said Bruce Baker, an associate professor at the Rutgers Graduate School of Education. "Better to regroup and rethink."
Of course, it would have been nice to spare him another graph or two to let him tell you WHY these reforms aren't very thoughtful.

And the S-L is still buying into the false premise that the error was a simple omission, when quite clearly it was a calculated rewrite designed to play down Christie's destructive education cuts. And the talk-radio driven decision to rewrite the application in the first place has been totally lost.

Still, give the S-L a lot of credit for taking a look at whether Andy Smarick is really up to the job of Ed Commish:
But some question Smarick’s credentials. The deputy commissioner is not from New Jersey, has not worked in schools as a teacher or administrator, and does not have robust experience in government, said Baker, the Rutgers professor.
"I’m not necessarily one who believes that the commissioner has to be a life-long public school employee, or education system bureaucrat, or even has to be tightly connected to the public schooling system," Baker said. "But Smarick in particular is completely unqualified."
Amen. Give the S-L credit as well for detailing some of the consequences of Christie's cuts. The start of school this year is really going to open some parents' eyes. It was all just an abstraction before; now it's real.

Finally, today's S-L editorial does take Christie to task for the way he's handled things. I do wish they had pointed out that his "blunt" style was the cause for him to take a swipe at the Obama administration without knowing all the facts, which is why he wound up so embarrassed. This is a hallmark of his personality and it's what has kept him from being an effective leader.

Unfortunately, the editorial - like this one from the NY Times - buys into the premises of RTTT far too easily. From the NYT:
Education Secretary Arne Duncan made clear that the process would favor bold reform plans from states with proven records of improving student performance. The states were required to create data-driven systems for training and evaluating principals and teachers; encourage the establishment of high-quality charter schools; develop plans for turning around failing schools; and demonstrate a strong political consensus for reform.
It's hard to imagine how much more credulous the Times could be. I'll say it again (and again and again if I have to):
Let's think about all the great stuff that's coming so that we "put the kids first":

- Merit pay. Hasn't worked yet, but full speed ahead!

- Charter schools. Weak to no gains so far, but full speed ahead!

- Teacher evaluations and dismissals based on standardized tests. Error rates of 25%-35%, but full speed ahead!

- Institutionalizing the testing culture of schools. Big problems looming with cheating as the stakes in these tests get higher - really big problems - but full speed ahead!

- Rewarding states for their commitment to educational reform. So far, some of the worst states have been rewarded, but full speed ahead!

Some race...

We may be lost, but we're making great time!

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